Wayne Rooney this season took up the iconic no.10 at Old Trafford, and as he reveals part two of this interview, he's hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of the footballing greats to have donned the shirt...
Why did you change your number this season – were you offered the No.10 shirt?
When Ruud [van Nistelrooy] left and no-one took it the following season I asked the manager and David Gill if I could have the shirt. I had to wait a year until the new kit came out [at the start of this season], but as soon as that happened I was given the shirt, which was great. Ten has always been my favourite number.
Did you know much about the history behind the shirt at United – Denis Law, Mark Hughes and Ruud van Nistelrooy, of course, are all former holders…
They were all great players who scored so many goals for the club so I knew what a big number it was for me to take. But that great history makes wearing the shirt feel even better and also makes it more of a challenge to succeed. I always keep my first shirt of every new season so I’ve got the first no.10 one I wore against Chelsea [in the Community Shield] up at home.
It’s also an iconic shirt throughout world football – Puskas, Pele, Platini, Maradona, Baggio, Zidane and now Ronaldinho have all worn it – was that in your mind too?
Yeah, it’s definitely been an important number down the years. It’s probably more of a traditional number in South America for the best players to wear no.10. When you look at the players that have worn it, it feels great to have the number. Hopefully when I’ve finished people will look back and say the same thing about me.
Have you got a favourite no.10 that you used to watch as a youngster?
Not really. Duncan Ferguson was a big hero of mine but he was no.9 when I was a kid. He did switch to no.10 when I broke into the team at Everton though. Michael Owen is probably the no.10 I remember watching the most. Even though he played for Liverpool, I still always enjoyed watching him.
Pele and Maradona were both great no.10s, what have you seen of them in action?
I’ve watched a lot of videos of Pele and you can see what a brilliant footballer he was. He had two great feet, was strong in the air and was also a very good athlete. He’s rightly up there as one of the best players of all time. But, in my eyes, Maradona is definitely the best player there has ever been. He had pace, great skill and an unbelievable desire to win.
Maradona has said that he believes you have a strong claim to be the best footballer in the world – do compliments like that inspire you as a player?
It’s good to hear nice comments from anyone, but it’s amazing when it comes from someone like Maradona. It gives you great confidence to go out there and try and be as good as them.
Denis Law is one of the most famous no.10s at United. It must have been nice to be presented with your new shirt by him?
It was fantastic. He was an unbelievable player, he scored so many goals for the club and for him to hand the shirt over to me was a real honour. He was a player who could score any kind of goal. He wasn’t the tallest but he was very good in the air. He was also a very brave player and a real goal poacher inside the box.
He said recently that he believes you, Ronaldo and Tevez can form a new holy trinity at United…
Really? I hadn’t heard that! If we can get anywhere near that then it would be amazing. It’s
great to hear things like that, but the likes of myself, Ronaldo and Carlos will tend to get more of the praise as we score the goals. The three of us know the importance of the other lads in the side and the part they play in helping the team be successful, so it’s not just about the players who score the goals.
Your first goal in the no.10 shirt came against Roma in October – what do you remember about the goal?
It was similar to the second one I scored against AC Milan last season. I hit it early, made good contact and thankfully it went into the far corner. It was a relief to get that first goal because I’d missed the first few games of the season with my broken foot. It was even more pleasing that it came in such an important game.
How do you feel you’re developing as a striker – would you liken yourself to any of the aforementioned front men?
Not really. I think it’s difficult for you to compare yourself to someone else, but I certainly hope I can become as good as them. I’ve definitely changed the way I play this season in the fact that I’ve played further up front rather than in behind a main striker; that’s something Carlos has done. I’d probably say I’ve enjoyed that role more as you seem to get more chances and hopefully that means I’ll end up with more goals.